The first film kicking off my Edinburgh International Film Festival this year was Chris Foggin's directorial debut, coming-of-age drama Kids in Love, starring Will Poulter and Cara Delevingne, which has its World Premiere at the fest tonight (Wednesday 22nd). Here's my review.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE EIFF 2016 COVERAGE
Best friends Jack (Will Poulter) and Tom (Jamie Blackley) have just finished school and are planning to travel abroad for their forthcoming gap year. However, Jack's dad Graham (Pip Torrens) has other plans for his son, setting up an internship for him at a law firm, to prep him for Bristol University upon his return. With the pressure of adulthood, university and a career he has no interest in all looming over his head, he decides to try get away from it all. After meeting the mysterious and beautiful Evelyn (Alma Jodorowsky) and her free-spirited group of friends - the charming sisters Viola (Cara Delevingne) and Elena (Gala Gordon), cool dude Cassius (Preston Thompson) and Evelyn's boyfriend Milo (Sebastian De Souza) rounding off the crew - Jack begins to get caught up in their crazy lifestyle of freedom and parties. But, as he does so, he begins to put his old life behind him and gets entangled further into this group's mysteries, with lots going awry as a result.
Sebastian De Souza and Preston Thompson's screenplay - both who also have starring roles in the film - is tons of fun. The narrative is fairly simplistic but, unlike most coming-of-age dramas, this isn't an idealistic, contrived story in which characters go on a magical journey to find themselves or anything like that. What makes Kids in Love so special is how genuine and real it all feels, so laden with nuance and understanding; from the characters to the story, there's an authenticity to it all that is so very real and human. Life for a teenager going off to university doesn't have a well-crafted premise or moments of utter profanity, it's just taking things one day at a time, in the real world, with real people, and it's this simplicity that the film so brilliantly depicts, grounding the proceedings and making it stand out from the crowd for doing so. De Souza and Thompson have also done a superb job of crafting such well-realised, fleshed out characters that, again, feel real. They are typical teenagers. You can't help but fall for their heart and spirit; Jack especially is relatable and the audience empathises with him and everything he is going through as a result.
The acting is all great too, with each and every actor giving a terrific performance to compliment their character nicely. Thompson's Cassius is a highlight, with his wit and charisma, quickly winning the audience over. In their limited screentime, Cara Delevigne and Gala Gordon are also wonderful as Viola and Elena - just so energetic and charming; the former, especially, lights up the screen with her warm smile. De Souza's presence also demands your presence, but more so as the intimidating, authoritative figure in comparison to everyone else. Reuniting with Will Poulter after last year's Plastic, the pair have a great dynamic and relationship that translates so brilliantly to the screen. Poulter, himself, is the standout here. He brings a lot of innocence and heart to Jack, which adds levity and humanity to the proceedings. The actor carries most of the film and gives a resonating performance, so lauded with love. His relationship with Alma Jodorowsky is so believable too; the actress equally shines as the ethereal Evelyn. The pair have such a great chemistry, as does this entire cast in fact. You believe and invest into their friendship and sense of community and family; the best scenes aren't the crazy parties or wild antics but rather the smaller, quite character moments between this group of youthful friends. The actors were clearly having fun making this film and their energy comes across so well.
There are plenty of laughs to be had too, with the screenplay delivering sharp wit and humour. However, it's director Chris Foggin that is the real star here. His direction is slick and it's hard to think this is only his directorial debut; his handle on the material is so great and this film is just so great and fun. Foggin has given us not only an engaging coming-of-age flick but one that is fresh and original too, bringing something new and atypical to the table in its simplicity and its audacity to veer away from genre tropes and conventions and idealism yet still capturing the optimism and energy of youth as well as the heartbreak and inner conflicts of it too. Kids in Love isn't flawless though and the finale of the film feels incredibly rushed; the film ends so quickly and abruptly, with so many loose ends left untied, that it just deflates everything that came before to an extent. The tone can also be a little uneven at times. The film, like its characters, is fun and free-spirited and captures the essence of youth perfectly but, occasionally, the film will slow things down and add some emotional weight which is very welcomed but it's never quite as resonating as it could be, just because the direction of the tone wasn't the smoothest.
However, these are minor gripes for what is an otherwise remarkable film. As a teen myself, I absolutely love this movie. Kids in Love captures the innocence as well as the cynicism of youth. This film is bursting with energy and is tons of fun to watch. You care for the characters but, more importantly, you care for this cast and their chemistry. The film is tender and endearing and it's a breath of fresh air in a genre so overdone nowadays. Chris Foggin has created a true gem in this picture, something so grounded and real and free-spirited. This is about as genuine and honest as coming-of-age films get. Sure, Kids in Love has its flaws but it's something pretty special nonetheless and will have you both smiling and reeling at the same time all the way throughout.
KIDS IN LOVE OPENS IN THE UK ON AUGUST 26TH, 2016.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.